The Anniversary of the Modern Bikini


In 1946 the modern Bikini was created by the French engineer Louis Reard to a world that was not quite ready for something so revealing. The bikini was declared illegal by western countries, while the Vatican and other religious groups found it sinful. Later on, the bikini was made popular by actors like Bridget Bardot and Ursula Andress, becoming mainstream by the 1960’s. 

This pin-up poster depicts a woman in a blue bikini sitting on the beach next to a sombrero turning to face her audience. She is painted in soft hues with delicately applied water-color. It is a curious poster as there is no correlation whatsoever between the product it advertises, Veedol Motor Oil, and the image it is selling, a woman in a bikini. But of course, today we see this type of advertising regularly, where a product is indirectly depicted through some vague or often overt fantasy. We see this approach often in fashion and perfume posters that show scantily clad men and women. These images are sometimes criticized for their manipulative qualities, toying with viewers emotional desires or insecurities in order to sell the product.  On the other side of the spectrum we saw in 2007 Turkey banning all posters depicting women in two-piece swimsuits in an attempt to appease Islamic-oriented authorities. What a huge step backwards for the emancipation of women in the middle-east. Today, on the anniversary of the bikini, I wonder more about the history of the poster and the lasting effect an image has on its audience.

According to French historian Max Gallo, “for over two hundred years, posters have been displayed in public places all over the world. Visually striking, they have been designed to attract the attention of passers-by, making us aware of a political viewpoint, enticing us to attend specific events, or encouraging us to purchase a particular product or service.” The modern poster, as we know it, however, dates back to 1870 when the printing industry perfected color lithography and made mass production possible. “In little more than a hundred years,” writes poster expert John Barnicoat, “it has come to be recognized as a vital art form, attracting artists at every level, from painters to theatrical and commercial designers. Credit: Wikipedia

I wonder how many bikinis you’ll see on your way to work today?!